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How to deal with an aggressive lower ESL level student

 
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Mindful



Joined: 13 Jul 2010
Posts: 10
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:01 pm    Post subject: How to deal with an aggressive lower ESL level student Reply with quote

Hi everyone! I'm a new ESL teacher with an adult class. My students are very respectful, polite and considerate. However, there is one older student in my class who is very opinionated, argumentative, kind of aggressive, excessively talkative and not exactly polite or considerate. How should I deal with this student effectively? I can see that other students are getting annoyed by his behavior, and I want everyone to feel safe and valued in the class. I'm thinking of speaking to this student in private. Have an idea what will say to him.'ll be assertive and non-confrontation, but honest and to the point. What if he gets defensive and refuses to acknowledge the problem?

Thanks.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3010
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi there! Hmm, are your classes just "conversation", where people can "talk" (or try to) about whatever comes into their head regardless, and "topics" just come and go as "they" please? If so, you may need to assign more clearly defined and demarcated tasks, so that everyone stands a chance of learning and performing something rather than just enduring the borish one's yak. But if things are still proving difficult whenever there's any freer as opposed to controlled work, then you may have no option but to start chairing things more effectively*, and don't forget that you could even make a subtle lesson out of e.g. practising phrases for cutting conversations short.

*I remember a Chinese woman taking one long, very self-satisfied five-minute turn to relate an "original" ghost story that, as it turned out (from class comments afterwards), was the plot to something that had only recently been on TV (me, I was too busy to watch Chinese TV!). Sensing the class's general impatience at her droning on and on, and fearful that she'd never end, I simply had to interrupt with, 'Anyway, to cut a looong story short, how did it end?'. Which helped wrap it up reasonably quickly.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1368
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have had similar kinds of students. Once a substitute asked me how I did it, as the student had somewhat hijacked the class. It of course depends on what the student is doing. My students included some very educated Russians who wanted to show how much grammar they understood by asking involved questions. I often would respond, "Oh, that's a great question." (if it was, because sometimes you could see how they would stretch a "rule" they learned in another direction.) I would explain the ones I could, and if I couldn't, I would either tell them I'd check it out and return with an answer the next day, or if it was just "one of those things" I'd explain that as a native speaker I preferred to use xxxx, but if they wanted to speak in a less native way, people would probably understand.

It's a lot harder when you are a new teacher and possibly unsure of yourself. I was always nice to my students, and they knew it, but I wasn't afraid to cut them off if they tried to take over. You can always use the, "That's a good idea, but we don't have enough time to talk about it more in class. If you see me after class, we can discuss it further." approach.

Without knowing how the student is interrupting, (see Fluffy's ideas above) it's hard to know what to suggest.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3010
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reading the first paragraph of Lori's answer sort of made me realize that I'd left out the word 'involved' to further describe the Chinese woman's story ('one long, very involved and self-satisfied turn'), meaning: There is nothing so absolutely wrong with somebody taking long turns, provided they are reasonably fluent, snappy, not bogged down with irrelevancies and digressions, and welcoming of interruptions/co-operative conversation-building.

IIRC Brown & Yule's Teaching the Spoken Language mentions and discusses the need for developing long-turn skills as well as short-turn (though I suppose one could pragmatically view the long as no more than a collection of short!), but most books on analyzing and describing conversation (CA, 'Conversation Analysis'; DA, 'Discourse Analysis') include at least a selection of different types of texts.

There are some books on CA and DA mentioned in the following thread, and it might make for interesting reading generally:
http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?t=80627

In my third post in that thread (the second paragraph, to be precise) I mention my providing conversational exemplars of 'Past perfect' for students to model their own speaking turns on. In the context however of our possibly needing to "assign more clearly defined and demarcated tasks, so that everyone stands a chance of learning and performing something rather than just enduring the borish one's yak", I would however provide students with more controlled (those "more clearly defined and demarcated") tasks before they are to take their freely creative turns (and perhaps even before I took mine in the form of my initial exemplar): for example, you could give students a sheet of simple context-questions, such as 'The cat froze - Why?', with possible answers being 'It had seen a mouse', or 'It had been left outside on a particularly cold night'; such answers would then provide the structural if not the lexical basis for a listener to interrupt (should they so wish) at approripate points with guesses when a speaker were in the process of telling a "Past perfect-structured/using-story" (Practice: A: So my cat was standing there when suddenly it froze and started staring at someth... B: Had it seen a mouse? [Or more communicatively/less specific-form-focussedly, e.g. 'Was there a mouse?']). Which is stuff that could hopefully help you and others "break" (or at least break up) any bore's "hogging the floor" too much! Then, there is a suggested further activity in that thread (its third paragraph) that not only connects to and reminds the students of earlier formal-functional communicative work, but provides another instance of a form (this time the 'third conditional') being used to "interrupt" and thus help create more collaborative conversation.

So personally I'd try to find subtler pedagogical ways to influence how people (or rather, one garrulous person) might talk and interact than actually confront any one person at any length outside of class, but equally and as Lori points out, there is certainly nothing wrong with the teacher politely but firmly cutting somebody short in class if (or rather, when and whenever, which is usually always!) there might be more pressing or profitable things everyone could be getting on with instead.
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Mindful



Joined: 13 Jul 2010
Posts: 10
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for all your replies! I'll cut him off politely and firmly when he talks too much. It's important that all the students effectively share the time we have for class. It's a part time class so we don't have that much time.
Thanks again.
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TeacherMichelle



Joined: 04 Aug 2010
Posts: 4
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2010 5:07 pm    Post subject: Skittles! Reply with quote

Another idea (very non-confrontational) is to give each student three skittles (or some other candy). For every candy, the student gets to talk once. This is a good way of limiting the talkative ones and encouraging the quiet ones. I think it works better in small groups though.

If it is still a problem, you could talk to the student and emphasize how listening is a really valuable skill to practice and is often the hardest to improve. Give him some concrete ideas of how to practice listening (or give him a list of things to listen for in the class).
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